Posted on September 11, 2017, by Travis Pulver
With most of the season openers, fans had a pretty good idea of how the games would go. But that was not the case with the Sunday Night Football game between the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants.
Dallas caught a break getting Ezekiel Elliot back, but New York was forced to play without Odell Beckham Jr. But the Giants defense had no trouble handling Elliot and the rest of the Dallas offense last season. Could they do it again? If so, could Eli Manning generate enough points against the Dallas defense?
As it turns out, the answers were ‘no’ and ‘no.’
With a ton of new bodies in the lineup, no one knew what the Dallas defense would look like this season. If the unit can replicate what it did Sunday night to the Giants for the next few months, the playoff picture will be much, much sweeter for Dallas fans.
In the first half, they held the Giants to just two first downs and 49 total yards. The Cowboys nearly ran more plays on offense (47). As for New York’s ‘dominant’ defense, they gave up 265 yards to the Cowboys offense in the first half.
However, to be fair, they did stiffen up when it mattered most a few times and forced the Cowboys to settle for three field goals. So, even though Dallas thoroughly outplayed the Giants in the first half, the game was still in reach if Eli Manning could figure out how to get the ball moving.
At the start of the second half, it appeared that the Giants might have figured things out. Manning took most of the third quarter to drive down the field. But on second and goal from the four-yard line, Charles Tapper sacked Manning for a nine-yard loss. A short pass on third down gained back some of the yardage but not enough.
The Giants had to settle for a field goal after a 16-play, 68-yard drive that took 9:44 off the clock.
New York did move the ball much better in the second half. But with no running game, (35 yards on the night) and no reliable threat in the passing game, they struggled to maintain drives (Manning was 29-38 for 220 yards and an interception).
Dallas added a field goal in the fourth quarter to make the final score 19-3.
Dallas didn’t exactly move the ball with ease. But the Cowboys certainly did a much better job this year against the Giants defense. Dak Prescott had a good night (24-39 for 268 yards and a touchdown) as did Ezekiel Elliot (24 carries for 104 yards; five receptions for 36 yards). Dez Bryant was a non-factor catching just two of the nine passes thrown his way for 43 yards.
Jason Witten became the career leader in receiving yards for the Dallas Cowboys with an 11-yard catch in the second quarter. Michael Irving previously held the record. By time Witten was done (five catches for 59 yards and a touchdown) the new mark was 11,947 yards.
“You just enjoy the journey,” Witten said after the game (ESPN). “I’m just trying to devour where I am at this moment. It’s a great time in my life.”
Dallas certainly played well enough on offense, but the defense played better than anyone expected. However, as sweet as the win was, it came at a price. Defensive back Orlando Scandrick will be out for a few weeks after breaking his hand in the second quarter.
The Dallas defense will have another test on its hands when the Cowboys travel to Denver next week to face the Broncos (kickoff at 4:25 PM ET). The Giants will hope they can get Odell Beckham Jr. back in the lineup before they face the Detroit Lions on Monday Night Football next week.